GRowingBODIES Coach injury prevention professional development – September

The GRowingBODIES Coach Professional Development day is designed to empower coaches in their ability to prevent injuries in their athletes formative years.

The full day course, in Adelaide, on September 15th 2018 will cover:

  • how coaches can assist to prevent low back injuries and other common injuries in young developing bodies
  • how to manage the developing rowers load between doing too much or too little and the injury risks associated with either extreme
  • how strength and conditioning can be protective of injury for young GRowingBODIES and exactly what programs are best
  • what low back pain to be worried about
  • how to manage a rower back into training after injury

Extensive electronic resources will be provided to all attending Coaches:

  • individual stretches with photos and instructions to use as with you own school or club branding on posters, handouts or any other format [shown above]
  • warm up exercises as photos and instructions to formulate your own active warm up routines
  • trunk movement control and strength exercises with photos and instructions to formulate your own exercise programs
  • strength and conditioning exercises and instructions to formulate your own gym programs

These tips, resources and the knowledge will empower rowing coaches to be able give their athletes the best start in their rowing career. Athlete future lumbar spine health rests with school and club Coaches – back health should be high on every Coaches agenda and be included in their considerations for duty of care in club and school programs

Spaces are limited in this small group environment.  Further information, including booking details are available on this link: Coach PD Day 2018.

Hamstring length is important in rowing… but only if you use it!!!!

Physiotherapists screen rowers with the intent of preventing injury BUT it is VERY important to recognise that what is seen in the clinic is not always what is seen when rowing a boat.

Having long hamstrings allows the rower to reach the end of the drive without the pelvis moving back too far and the low back moving into a more flexed (slumped) position. Less low back flexion in the rowing stroke has been linked to less likelihood of low back pain. It is an easy assumption to make that having long hamstrings will ensure that you do not get low back pain. However, the rower with long hamstrings may still move in a way in the boat that results in a ‘slump’ at the finish due to other reasons, this may include; a lack of abdominal strength and endurance or simply using a movement pattern that is ingrained and difficult to change.

You may ask ‘then why screen for hamstring length?’ This is a VERY good question.

It is important to screen for hamstring length as a rower will not be able to use optimal movement patterns in the boat without it. However, it is equally important to educate the rower about why it is important to change length using visual examples so they know what they are aspiring to.

It is equally important to ensure a individual rowers coach is aware of when the rower has adequate hamstring length so that a rower can be coached to use it and make a movement change that will sustain the length change.

Screening is not enough – education about how to protect your young growing body from injury and how to optimise movement patterns for improved performance are imperative.

Connecting the body to the legs

Getting into a compressed position at the catch requires flexibility of the ankles, knees and hips whilst being able to maintain a flat low back, a curved upper back position and an ability to ‘hang’ with the large lat (latissimus dorsi) muscles about to take load.

As the oar enters the water the knees start to descend and the body starts to open up. When young, developing rowers learn to row they are taught to press the knees down first then open the body up. Rowing is technically very difficult and this is a great way to learn technique. However, as the rower develops, technique can be progressed to adding body opening as the legs are pressed down. This spreads the load across the pelvis and low back in a more even way and makes the rowing stroke more powerful and efficient.

Opening the body while the legs are descending is a very difficult action for the large gluteal muscles. They have to engage when they are on full stretch and have to work through approximately 130 degrees of hip flexion shortly after the catch to approximately 70 degrees of hip flexion at the finish position. They need to brace against the large forces coming from the quads to transfer load through to a stable trunk and arms that eventually impart pressure in the oar.

This featured exercise is a muscle patterning exercise that rowers can use to practice the sequencing of leg to body connection. Rowers need to have enough ankle, knee and hip range  to get into the crouched sitting position that is similar to the position at the catch. Once in this position;

  • bend forward over the legs and cup the elbows
  • cupping the elbows ensures that the shoulder blades come out around the upper back a little as they do at the catch
  • keep the low back flat and the upper back relaxed
  • push through the heels and keep the elbows pointed towards the ground, lifting the elbows can allow you to raise by stabilizing your spine with your hip flexors and pushing through your quads
  • this exercise teaches you to push through your glutes and quads while keeping your trunk muscles on
  • raise up by pushing your knees back and opening your body slightly, keep looking toward the ground and do not stand all the way up – after all, you do not lie flat in the boat!!

3 lots of 20 repetition was performed with control is an ideal amount to aim for.

You can also do this as an active movement exercise as part of your warm up – do sets of 10.


Kellie Wilkie on ABC radio discussing training load for GRowingBODIES

Kellie Wilkie was recently interviewed on ABC Hobart radio about aspiring to be elite in sport, what amount of sport kids should do and injury prevention for developing athletes.  

Kellie starts her segment at 1:02:30 ABC Radio Hobart

Aspiring to be an elite athlete is common in active adolescents.  This is a great aim as it encourages physical activity, relationship building amongst peers and results in kids having great adult mentors.  Eventually though, kids become adults and have to make an assessment about life goals including whether they peruse their sporting dreams or change their goals to focus more on occupational endeavours.  Whatever the choice, aspiring to be the best form of yourself that you can be teaches you lessons along the way that contribute to you being an achiever in life.

In the pursuit of excellence, kids can often do too much sport or specialise in one sport too early in life.  Research reported in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, 2015, found that kids have an increased injury risk if their organised sport hours per week were greater than their age in years.  They also found that if their organised time in sport was twice as much as their unstructured activity time, such as walking to school and jumping on the trampoline, they were also at greater risk.  Parents need to ensure their children are not doing too much but also that they are doing enough unorganised activity so that they are not missing valuable time to experiment with movement and do incidental exercise.

Sports Physiotherapists and Sport & Exercise Physicians are ideal practitioners to consult with if parents want evidence based advice on how much sport is too much, what is the right mix of activity and if their children are meeting minimal physical activity levels.  Sport specific screenings with a Sports Physiotherapist can identify whether a young, growing body has enough flexibility, movement control and strength to participated in their main chosen sport as they start to specialise.  These assessments can assist with injury prevention and performance optimisation, especially if compelted throughout the growing years or just prior to puberty.

Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 4.23.32 pm

What is most important stretch to prevent injury in rowing?

The most common rowing injury of both the young developing rower and the elite rower is low back pain.
The research agrees with clinicians working with rowers – the less low back flexion (curve) you have the less low back pain you experience.
Most importantly, the more hip flexion (compression) you have the less curve you have in your low back.
In this image, Kim Brennan (gold medalist from the Rio Olympic Games) shows how maximal hip compression results in a very flat low back position. This position is protective of low back injury but also a very strong position for the transfer of leg load to the body. You will notice that her upper back in curved forward, to gain reach. This is exactly what it is designed for. As long at the lower part of the spine is not curved, the low back is less likely to be injured.
Kim Brennan
Photo used with permission from Kim Brennan
The key to getting into this position is stretching your glutes (bottom muscles). Here are two effective stretches that rowers can use to make a change in hip flexion (compression). If you can assume these positions without pain, hold the stretch for 2min, once per day for 2 weeks. This often makes a change in hip motion of up to 20degrees.
Improving motion in your hips is always best done under the care of a Physiotherapist with rowing specific knowledge so that all other factors can be assessed.  Do not persist with these stretches if you experience any discomfort while performing them.

Should you row with a cold?

It’s Winter in Australia and this is a common time of the year for athletes to become unwell.  

The common cold is an upper respiratory tract infection and is typically caused by viruses which are more common in the Winter months.

You can protect yourself against a “cold” by:

  • Frequent hand washing – with waterless hand gel or with soap and water
    • after sneezing or coughing
    • before eating or touching your face
    • after training
    • after using tissues
    • after contact with communal spaces or places
  • Avoiding contact with unwell people
  • Ensuring you & your crew mates practice good hygiene by covering your mouths when coughing or sneezing
  • Practicing good recovery strategies:
    • nutritious food
    • adequate fluids
    • sufficient sleep

Influenza is a different respiratory virus, that can be prevented with the flu vaccination, which should be had every year by athletes due to the potential severity of the illness and the subsequent length of training often missed with this infection.

When you get a cold, should you train?

  • You should never train with a fever (temperature > 37.5oC)
  • A good guide is, if the symptoms are all above the neck, lighter training intensity and shorter duration is recommended for developing rowers
  • If the symptoms are below the neck, substituting a rowing or dry land training session for a light walk is recommended
  • Unwell athletes should be excluded from communal training venues such as the gym or ergo room until they are well to reduce the risk of transmission to crew mates

It is worth noting that some cold & flu preparations used to manage the common cold are not permitted in sport under the WADA code.  All athletes should check any medications they wish to use on Globaldro 


How important is sleep for adolescent rowers?

Multiple research papers describe an increased risk of both injury and illness with reduced sleep hours in adolescent athletes

  • injury rate increased 1.4 times if less than 8 hours sleep 
  • less than 5 hours of sleep meant athletes were 4.5 times more likely to have an infection than those sleeping more than 7 hours
  • more than 8 hrs sleep reduced odds of injury by 61%
  • recurrent illness should trigger a suspicion of poor sleep

To improve sleep, adolescent rowers should consider

  • Keeping a regular sleep schedule, with a consistent go-to-bed time
  • Have a sleep friendly bedroom – cool & dark
  • Avoid screens before bedtime – for at least 60 minutes
  • Have a mental strategy for relaxation before bed – consider a meditation app such as Smiling mind, Headspace or Buddify
  • Consider a daytime nap of no more than 45 minutes, before 4pm (1600)

Milewski J Paediat Ortho 2014
Van Rosen Scand J Med Sci Sports 2017
Prother Sleep 2015
Halson  J Sci Med Sport  2017